As we come to the final verses of the Acts of the Apostles we will find Paul finally in Rome. All this began in Acts 21:27ff when he was arrested in the temple in Jerusalem on charges of undermining the law and the temple and Caesar (25:8). He is saved from angry mob justice by a Roman cohort in Jerusalem, and this begins a process whereby Paul is sent from Felix the Roman governor to Festus another governor, under whom he makes this appeal to appear before Caesar (25:11) in Rome.
V. 11 Last time we saw him in Malta, the island where they ran aground in the shipwreck. Here Paul and his entourage stayed approximately from mid-November to about mid-February, whilst waiting out the storm season. Eventually they had found a ship from Alexandria that had wintered in the island. The ship had the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux, patron deities of sailors on her bow. Luke probably records this intentionally. The pagan sailors would have attributed their rescue from the shipwreck to these twin gods, but it is clear that these were not the ones in whom Paul had put his trust. In 27:23-25 Paul has made it clear who his Protector and Deliverer is.
V. 12 After a 90 kilometre journey north, the ship lands in Syracuse the provincial capital city of Sicily, at the tip of the boot of the Italian peninsula. Here they stayed for three days.
V. 13 From there they sailed on to Rhegium in southern Italy , another 110 kilometres further and from there, with the south wind in their sails they arrived in Puteoli 2 days later, and 325 km’s further. In Puteoli they found some brothers and stayed with them for 7 days. Isn’t this worldwide network of support and encouragement amazing? This must have meant that the centurion and guard must have given his consent.
v. 14 And now he is in Rome, through many dangers toils and snares ... ship wreck, snakebite … This marks the fulfilment of God's promise to Paul (23:11; 27:24).
v. 15 The way he got to Rome from Puteoli ( a 210 km journey) there was on land. First Paul made his way about 30 kilometres up the Via Compana to its intersection with the Via Appia, or the Appian Way. The Forum of Appius is about 70 km’s from Rome and some 16 km’s further was the place called the three Taverns. At both these places Christian brothers from Rome, who had heard that Paul and the others were coming, came to meet him. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and took courage. Why? This show of support was surely most encouraging to Paul. He knows that he is in God’s hands, but it is also good to know that there are caring Christian people, visible tokens of the love of God. Furthermore Paul knew that the end of the long journey was now in view. They had met some significant obstacles. So, when with God's help, we achieve divinely appointed goals, the proper response is thankfulness to God.
v. 16 When Paul entered Rome he is put under house arrest and guarded by a soldier. At this stage he has considerable liberties.
28:17-22 Encounter with Jewish Leaders
v. 17 Three days after his arrival, and in accordance with his "to the Jew first" strategy, he called together the local leaders of the Jews . It is estimated that the Jewish community at Rome numbered some fourty to fifty thousand people, most of them being Roman slaves and freedmen. The names of ten to thirteen synagogues have been recovered from inscriptions in the catacombs. As Paul began to speak he addressed his hearers as brothers. He saw each new audience of Jews as potentially containing some of the elect remnant who would hear and respond to the gospel. This brief address to them contains four statements:
(i) He is innocent before the Jews (28:17b, 19c). They can bring no sustainable charges against him, and he has none to bring against them. The Jews may have charged that Paul is working against the Jewish people and their customs, but the charges aren’t true because Paul was always working for his Jewish brothers (Rom 10:1). He always respected Jewish customs (21:23-24, 26).
(ii) He is a prisoner of the Roman government and there are reasons for this (28:17c, 19b). He was handed over as a prisoner from Jerusalem to the Romans. He was forced to appeal to Caesar (v. 19; also see 25:11).
(iii) Romans and Jews had different opinions toward Paul (28:18a, 19a). The Romans wanted to release him. The Jews objected to Paul's release (25:3, 7). This situation is very similar to Jesus.
(iv) He was not guilty of any crime deserving death (28:18). Paul is innocent before the Roman state (23:28-29; 25:25; 26:31-32).
V. 20 In this verse Paul gets to the point. He has been preparing the ground for the question, "so if you are innocent , then why are you here ? And Paul answers, "Why am I here? I am here because of the hope of Israel ...that is why I am wearing this chain." The Jewish leaders respond to Paul's statements by saying that they have heard nothing bad about Paul, whether by letter or by word of mouth. What they do know however, is that this sect (Gr. haireseōs) which Paul represents is spoken against everywhere (v.22). Clearly, Christianity was not viewed positively by them.
28:23-28 Explaining the Gospel to the Jews
v.23. The Jewish leaders want to give Paul a fair hearing and so they agree upon a day. They arrive in force at his rented lodgings (vv. 16, 30). He expounded to them from morning till evening, testifying (Gk diamartyromenos- 23:11) to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus, both from the law of Moses and the prophets. All this is just another way of saying that he was preaching the gospel to them with great intensity.
v. 24.The response to the message was mixed: some were convinced… but others disbelieved ( see this pattern also in 13:44-45; 14:1-2; 17:4-5).
vv. 25-27 Now to interpret this mixed response, Paul quotes from the Old Testament (Isa. 6:9-10). Paul takes the Jewish Scriptures, given in a particular setting in Isaiah’s day, and he does not hesitate to apply this to these Romans Jews. Isaiah in his day spoke about what happens when people hear saving truth without appropriating it. They would be ever hearing but never understanding (compare the use of parables in Lk. 8:10 with Isa. 6:9). Isaiah attributes this lack of understanding to a hard heart, deaf ears , blind eyes. There is nothing defective or unclear in the message. The defect is found in the audience's sinfulness. This sickness affects the heart (i.e. the willingness to be willing to hear and see) and the mind (whose access is barred by faulty hearing and seeing). If they would but see with open eyes, hear with open ears, and respond with soft hearts, they would turn (repent) and God would heal them. The truth is that human sinfulness has made us so hard , so blind and so deaf that no –one would be saved. It takes a miracle, it take intervention from God to cure this condition.
v. 28. The gentiles will listen …. This is the third time Paul speaks of Jewish rejection and Gentile reception (13:46; 18:6).
28:30-31 The Gospel is preached for two years to all who wanted to hear
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ… This final summary statement brings to conclusion the thesis of the Book of Acts, in Acts 1:8, that ‘ you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. This also corresponds with Luke’s closing statements by Jesus in Luke 24:47. That "repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in [Jesus'] name to all nations" (Note in Lk.24:45, Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures)
And so we read that Paul was able to speak with boldness and "without hindrance" (akōlutōs). This word points to the work of a sovereign God whose saving plan, who determined it that the gospel will be preached in Jesus' name to all nations, will not be hindered.
The Book of Acts traces the birth and phenomenal growth of the church. At the beginning there were only a few hundred believers in Jesus Christ, and at the end, we can scarcely guess how many. Everywhere, men, women and children came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and among the gentile nations, which is where this book now abruptly ends.
The gospel advances despite much opposition. Persecution, beatings, death, imprisonment, shipwrecks, snakebites all threatened the spread of the Gospel. So, too, did sinfulness and faithlessness within the church (e.g. Acts 5:1-11). However, in spite of all the opposition and difficulties Luke says that the Gospel spread without hindrance.
This is a principle of timeless application. The Gospel spread in an unhindered fashion in the early church (cf. 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20), and it does so now. The gospel did not cease to be proclaimed when Paul was martyred. The future of the gospel was not in Paul’s hands , but in God’s hands, and it is so until this very day. No-one can stop the progress and ultimate victory of the gospel.
So, what does the Lord require of you, as you continue with Acts 29, after the Gospel centered fashion of the book of Acts, following in the footsteps of Paul ?
1. Share the Gospel clearly and often.
2. Do not worry too much about the outcome. You cannot save a soul. God alone can do that. You do not have to feel responsible for the salvation or damnation of anyone.
3. Speak when it is given to you to do so, and do it with all your heart and with a heart that loves the Lord Jesus as well as the soul before you.
4. Don't bully people into decisions. Let the Holy Spirit work.
5. Be creative. Don’t feel that you must share the Gospel in exactly the same way each time. Make sure that you know your Bible so that the Holy Spirit can bring the stored up Word in you to memory. 6. Don't get into arguments. You don’t have to win an argument. You are already on the winning side. The Gospel is unhindered. So speak with confidence, urgency and love for this lost soul before you.
7. Avoid developing an Elijah complex. You are not alone in this gospel work.
Regardless of how things may seem, the good news of the Gospel is, was, and always will be without hindrance. Jesus is building His church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
 See 13:5, 14; 14:1; 16:13; 17:2, 10, 17; 18:4; 19:8
 Gk paradidomi